Sophie Milburn, Senior Partner and Scrivener Notary at Saville and Co. Scrivener Notaries, has worked there since 1995 and qualified as a Scrivener Notary in 2001. At that time notaries were trained ‘on the job’.
“It was very different then,” she says. “All training for notaries was done internally and we qualified directly as Scrivener Notaries, rather than qualifying as general notaries first, as happens now. We had to teach ourselves the eight required heads of law, then take exams that were written by independent Scrivener Notaries appointed by the Notarial Committee of the Worshipful Company of Scriveners, one of the few ancient livery companies of the City of London which still actively runs its profession.”
Now, the firm’s trainee notaries are directed to Law Training Centre to do their required notary academic training courses before they go on to University College London to take the Notarial Practice course.
She explains: “We have a rolling trainee notary programme with a permanent open vacancy. We try to recruit at least one trainee per year so that there is a continuous qualification process and a succession plan in place. The courses our trainees need to do depend entirely on their background. A candidate can come to us with a law degree, LPC, SQE, but they may still need to study certain modules because they are not covered by their law degree. Candidate Scrivener Notaries must also be fluent in two languages besides English. Once they have passed the UCL course, candidate Scrivener Notaries go on to study for more exams, set by the Notarial Committee of the Worshipful Company of Scriveners.”
There are currently eight notaries and four trainee notaries at Saville and Co., including Marta Maldonado Prados and Roman Egorov. Another will be returning from maternity leave as a qualified general notary shortly and a new trainee is about to embark on her studies.
Flexibility of online learning
Part of a trainee’s contract with Saville and Co. is to complete their training within a specific timeframe which does have contingency time in place for any unexpected circumstances. This is enhanced by the fact that the course is online and flexible so trainees can study whichever way they find the most convenient.
Sophie explains: “We have found that the courses with Law Training Centre are the most accessible route to become a notary. Online learning is a perfect solution for our trainees as it provides that flexibility that is crucial when they are working at the same time as studying. Whilst our trainees have to work full time during the week, and must study in their own time, we do give our trainees two weeks study leave to prepare for each of their exams. It’s up to them how they choose to take that – whether in one solid block or split across a ten-week period. We usually give our trainees an extra year over what we expect it should take them and the time is different for each person depending on the number of courses they need to do.”
A cosmopolitan and multi-cultural role
Scrivener notaries are a small, specialised branch of the notarial profession and must be fluent in two languages besides English to take on the role. “Most successful candidates we’ve had have been linguists primarily, who have an interest in law,” explains Sophie. “The thing that sets us apart is that we deal in all languages on a daily basis.”
Sophie studied French and Russian at university alongside some law subjects (taking a modular degree in Russian and French with Legal Studies). She knew when she left university that she didn’t want to follow the ‘traditional’ linguist career path as a translator, interpreter or languages teacher.
She explains: “As a linguist, it was and still is very challenging to find roles when you graduate that are not in those areas. With an interest in law, the role of notary, and particularly Scrivener Notary, was perfect. I love that I can be dealing with documents in all languages every day. It’s a great multi-cultural and cosmopolitan environment to work in.”
Law Training Centre has been chosen by the regulator of the notarial profession, the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the preferred provider of the Notarial Academic Training Course.
If you want to find out more about the role of notary, or scrivener notary, take a look at the FOAC website.